Ben Tilney may never play for MK Dons again after manager Robbie Neilson admitted the full back has 'lost his desire' to be a footballer.
The 20-year-old was expected to have a breakout year this season after making 11 appearances in the last campaign. But after being omitted from the pre-season trip to Hungary and then sent on loan to Brackley Town for the season on Tuesday, questions over his future, and indeed his relationship with Neilson, came to the fore.
Speaking after Dons' extra time victory over Forest Green Rovers on Tuesday night, Neilson said: "He felt he didn't have the desire to be a professional footballer. There's no point in either of us kidding each other - we want players who are desperate to do well for MK Dons and are desperate to get to the next level. And Ben felt that that might not be what he wants to do.
"We've sent him to Brackley, we will assess him, we hope he gets that desire back, but ultimately that has to come from within.
"We had a chat when we came back to pre-season about the way I felt he had to train to become a professional. I didn't take him to Hungary, and we had another chat where we came to a decision for him to go to Brackley because it takes him out of the professional environment.
"Ben is a lovely kid and I really like him, he has a great left foot but for me, ability is only 10 or 15 per cent of being a footballer. Ben felt he wanted to go and do something else and that maybe the part-time environment would suit him better. It's a very bold decision to make for a young boy.
"There can be a lot of pressure from the outside, so we're trying to help him as much as we can. We'll keep in contact with him."
Despite being down a full back in his squad, Neilson said he has always been in the market for a new left back in spite of losing Tilney.
He added: "I was always going to recruit a left back. We've got Lewie (Dean Lewington) and he has been a mainstay for a long time but we've spoken to him about it and we were always going to recruit in that area."